Chernobyl Priest

Father Dionisy went up so quietly the steps of the Optina Pustyn hotel where I stayed, that, as I sow him, I could not at once understand whether it was or not a reality.
I sow a toll man in dark monk’s cloths, with white and spiritual face. “Would you like a cap of tea,” – I asked. – “I have honey.”

“Yes, please,” – he answered. And I understood that, having prayed for the whole day with his community, he even had no time to eat. After tea, we had a conversation.

“I am celibate priest Dionisy. I have obedience in Byelaya Rus, in Chernobyl zone. From the very outset, when it became a zone. I serve in St Nikolay Church, in the ancient city of Bragin. Local people were very frightened with the catastrophe. They understood one thing: nobody can stay there. While I said to them that we had to live with God to win. My words excited astonishment and indignation. How? What can we account on here? Your, saint father…

“Now, when years have passed, many people return here, because the test for homelessness was more difficult, than the fear before radiation. And now our city is being restored.

“The city of Bragin is situated at a distance of 35 kilometres from the reactor. I am here for 10 years. My foot disturbs me, and if not for the Lord… Certainly, I visit the zone, the buried villages. Especially often I go there on Radonitsa (the 9th day after Easter, or the Parents Day) or if a deceased is being transported to cemetery from Minsk or other cities. The closed zone is at a distance of 500 m from the city. There is a barrier.

“There are many burials. That are mostly old people who die natural death. Though, there are also young people. Yesterday, we buried a chairman of a farming. 45 years old. Worked not far from the zone. Had heart troubles. Worked too hard. Now, many people live in poverty and have to work too hard. If I do not support them spiritually, many of them would weaken and suffer from troubles. People here live from their belief only.

“Now, when years have passed, people returning here recall my words. They return here with tears in their eyes, feeling sorry for their flight. While some of them have not returned at all. They simply could not endured without home. While the earth, our helper, became even better, after having had a rest. People who return here are grateful to us having stayed and kept our land.

“Fruits which our earth bears are mostly pure. Specialists are even surprised. How that could be? After such a catastrophe? But people have won a victory over the disaster. With God. Such people and this land should be taken care of.

“As for young people who want to marry and to have children, they come to me and ask for benediction. And I marry them. Pregnant women make their communion more often, than others. And, you know, children are born healthy in families, who go to church and live with God. But I cannot say about others.

“Of course, many people die. There were periods, when there was a deceased in every house. People come to me and ask to go to the zone for the burial. They pass their ruined houses and feel sorry for having left them. It is easier to go through troubles at home. I suppose, they now feel the same.

“Certainly, there are too many ill people. And we do not know, what will be further. Though, there are many cases when people recovered from their illness through their belief. For example, there was a boy, Volodya. He now lives in Minsk. He had troubles with his legs and some other illnesses. His mother started to bring him to the church. I interrogated him and gave communion to him. And he recovered. His hair started to grow again, and thyroid gland returned to the norm. Now, he can walk. All parishioners could see it, while doctors were surprised.

“There is a church which is closer to the epicentre. At a distance of 4 km from the reactors, there is St Mikhail Temple. I asked to send me there. It is a very lonely place. Of course, the congregation would not go there. Though, I wanted to keep the church. I went there along with military. They measured radiation level and say: “You know, father, there is no radiation inside the church, only outside.” Newspapers reported about it.”

Alexei Pryashnikov Russky Dom

Translated by Vera Solovieva

Read the original in Russian:

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